A major issue with flat ownership is the conflict of interests when it comes to building maintenance.
The freeholder (landlord) is responsible for providing the service, but has no responsibility for paying for it - that is passed on to the lessees. So for major items such as insurance cover, building upkeep and improvements, the freeholder has no incentive to shop around for price or quality.
The good news is that you have rights under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1987 and the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002 to take action against an errant freeholder. You have three alternatives:
Dispute individual service charges and assessments.
Appoint a different manager.
Take over the management with the Right-To-Manage process.
Service charges for repairs, maintenance, improvements or insurance are required to be 'reasonable' Service charges can go up or down without any limit, but the landlord can only recover those costs which are reasonable. You have the right to challenge service charges that you feel are unreasonable at the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal
Both landlords and leaseholders have a right to ask a Leasehold Valuation Tribunal whether a charge, or a proposed charge, is reasonable; however, there is no statutory definition of what is 'reasonable'. The Tribunal will consider the evidence presented and then make a determination on the matter.
An application may be made to the LVT whether or not the charge has already been paid. It can be in respect of costs already incurred for works, services or other charges, or in respect of an estimate or budget. However, if the charges have been agreed by the parties or finally determined by a court or tribunal, or by post-dispute arbitration, no application to an LVT can be made.
We can act on your behalf to dispute any service charges that you feel unreasonable. We naturally are unable to guarantee any application as being successful or for the amount of the eventual service charge reduction that may be determined by the Tribunal. You will be liable for the costs of preparation, LVT application and attendance of the Tribunal.